A friend wrote to me about my recent sermons on the Psalms (I have been preaching through Psalm 31-40). She is struggling with the idea of praying for the destruction of her enemies. Are we supposed to do that? Didn’t Jesus pray for the forgiveness of those who were putting Him to death? She had many questions surrounding this topic. Here was my “stab” at answering, briefly…
Destruction. Death. Why does God do that? Why was there a flood over the whole world and everyone, everyone died (some estimate the world was more greatly populated than the 7 billion on earth today)? Except for Noah and his family. And was Noah really that much nicer than everyone else? Start there when you are wondering about God dealing out destruction. It’s tough.
The chasm between God’s holiness (not niceness) and our fallenness is infinite. The only way we even have life at all is Grace – all Grace. The only way we are redeemed is Grace, all Grace. I have no right to think that in comparison to anyone else, I deserve to live and they deserve to die – and that is what comes through so clear as you read the Psalms – all the Psalms. One day, you should take a weekend and just make yourself read all 150 Psalms and see what you come away with – in total. It is awesome, it is complex, it is unruly, God is not tame – but He is good.
So, am I to pray for the destruction of my enemies? Well, as a follower of Christ and a member of His kingdom – yes. But what do I mean by their “destruction?” I mean to turn them over to God’s holy wrath that will glorify His name (to Whom I am ultimately loyal). It is His full right and position to decide if He would “destroy” them in their sin by leaving them in that sin and place them under His good and righteous judgment or whether He “destroys” their “old man” by placing them in Christ where we die in His death and are raised to new life by faith in Him and His perfect work accomplished for us. It certainly is a question “why does God not save everyone?” – and it is not easily answered. It is just as much a wonderful question: “why does God create and then redeem, save, and bring to Himself anyone? Why does God save anyone?” When God is revealed in all His glory, it doesn’t make sense, it is not easily answered.
Part of the reason, frankly, that these are questions which are so hard to answer is because our god is too small. Where were we when He placed Jupiter where He desired? How did He do that? He tells us that we have to understand that (creation out of nothing, full and complete sovereignty over the stars and galaxies and over every sub-atomic particle) before we can understand the purpose of evil, the nature of fallen man and the salvation of God in full. The point is that we have to take it in faith, bow and worship and receive His good gifts – and rest in a good Father’s wisdom that goes far beyond anything we could comprehend (Rom 11:33-36).
Our desire is for the world to be saved, for that “bad” destruction to not come upon our enemies, God’s enemies. Bur read the story in the Bible – that is EXACTLY where this story is going. Hallelujah! The world will be as full of the glory of God (and the knowledge of the glory of God) as the waters cover the sea. And as far as I can tell, the waters completely cover the sea. The descendants of Abraham (those with the faith of Abraham) will not be able to be numbered (and we can still count to 7 billion and more) – they will be more numerous than the sand on the beach. You can’t count that high. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
In the meantime, we are at war. We do not fight against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and our weapons are not carnal but spiritual for pulling down all strongholds. Faith – that is what overcomes the world (1 John 5). Sing the Psalms with that faith or they will be a bummer. Sing the Psalm with that faith and they will be used by God to bring His salvation and the praise to the glory of His grace from the river to the ends of the earth.